sometimes in winter
by Mary Jasch
I live in the Great Limestone Valley that runs along the southeast side of the Appalachian Mountains.
My home in the Valley's New Jersey section, the Kittatinny Valley, lies just south of the Kittatinny Ridge and the Appalachian Trail that tops Stokes State Forest and High Point State Park. My property sits on a gently rolling hillside of glacial till and the road winds uphill through pasture and Nature’s fields. I’ve walked this skinny, two-lane backroad for two decades, sometimes with a dog, until a couple years ago. Somehow, I had forgotten its magic.
There are no shoulders on this road, just Nature: limestone outcrops with ferns and flowers, trees, fields of wild flowers and a handful of houses.
Recently, on a not-too-cold January day, I walked the road. Luckily, not much has changed, such as the fire pond covered in duckweed in summer with banks of milkweed and now covered with ice. A skip and a hop away, a tiny stream weaves through golden winter grasses. Wide-mown paths on hilly fields frame dried asters, goldenrod and native bee balm. My heart - or spirit? - begins to warm and peace settles in.
Heading uphill, common teasel, considered by some to be invasive, grows in elegant, dark brown patches in an open field. The birds enjoy their seeds in winter, and I enjoy their architecture. Old shagbark hickory and big oaks grow roadside. I try to photograph them but somehow can’t capture their massive trunks and strong, sprawling branches together.
Turning back, I head downhill and come to the corner where my bovine friends once were. The “Bully Boys” are gone now and so is their barn. They used to live on a small lot with a dilapidated barn enclosed by a barbed wire fence. They were young bulls then, and when I got near, they stood still and watched me intently. I stopped to talk to them and they listened from the other side of the fence, for neither of us wanted contact. Then, one day they weren’t there anymore – no Bully Boys and, soon after, no barn.
Spots of green Christmas fern and moss still color the small limestone outcrops. In the straight ahead distance, trees have grown to hide the once-visible Appalachian Mountains. Where’s my axe!
But off to the right, I see the three hills that roll across the landscape beyond my property, beyond the corn field and the long-gone pasture, and I remember why I love "here."
See more about the soils in New Jersey's Great Limestone Valley here.
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published December 17, 2020